The 10 Most Annoying Pop Christmas Songs of All Time
Photo Credit: paparutzi at Flickr.
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In 1940, Irving Berlin penned “White Christmas,” that woozy, mournful standard that wished for snow from a sunny California office. In 1941, popular and handsome actor/singer Bing Crosby recorded it, somewhat haplessly (he didn’t think it was a hit). A version was included in the 1942 film Holiday Inn; Crosby sits at a piano, duets with co-star Marjorie Reynolds, and at one point, plays the bells on a Christmas tree with his pipe. It won an Oscar that year for Best Original Song, and its legacy has endured: probably the most recognizable pop Christmas song of all time, it’s sold over 50 million copies to date.
After that, the music industry realized that Christmas was a lucrative commodity. “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” was fine and dandy, but audiences wanted holiday music that wasn’t penned in the 12th century—music that more accurately reflected their culture and everyday lives. They were accommodated. After “White Christmas” blew up, a flood of new songs followed, including “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “The Little Drummer Boy” among them. At this point we consider those traditional holiday jingles, but in the 1940s, those were brand-new pop songs.
Now that Christmas is more of a consumerist holiday than it ever was, obviously we’ve seen a flood of related albums. In a way, cutting a Christmas album is a good way to know if someone has made it: if a record label believes people care about an artist enough to want to hear him singing songs about getting zooted and making out on a day meant to celebrate Jesus’ birth, clearly he's a pop star. But somehow, even with the increased variety of Christmas pop songs available, it seems like all the same ones are playing over and over in every single store and on every radio station from the day after Thanksgiving up to New Year’s Eve. Some are absurd (everything by Mannheim Steamroller), and plenty of them are annoying (everything from “The Nutcracker”), but thanks to our late-stage capitalist society, we were able to identify the 10 most annoying pop Christmas songs. EVER.
It’s hard to knock a song that was originally written to help starving children in Ethiopia—and meant to remind the privileged in the Western world that we are incredibly lucky compared to a majority of the global population. But another way to look at it is that it’s the ultimate in religious colonialism: a bunch of white men from the United Kingdom, like Simon LeBon, Sting and Bono, wondering if needy Africans “know it’s Christmas.” The song’s refrain is “feed the world”—indeed, and we should do more to do just that. But we're gonna go out on a limb and say Ethiopia probably knows it’s Christmas, since the majority of its population is Christian, and the country adopted Christianity as a state religion in the fourth century. What should be a sweet call for aid just ended up being completely condescending. Good job, Bob Geldof!
Cut during Madonna’s most acute phase of Marilyn Monroe-stalking, the pop queen’s attempt at a mafia moll accent just ends up sounding like a demonic kewpie doll brought to life through the dark arts. Not to mention: the whole thing is a send-up of a grossly materialistic woman, imploring Santa to bring her some toys... from Tiffany's. When Eartha Kitt did it in 1954, it was funny. Madge sang it after getting famous off “Material Girl,” the ‘80s anthem that declared she would never date a man who didn’t buy her fancy knick-knacks, and it's just kind of gross. It would be tempting to describe Madonna’s 1980s career as the anti-99 percent if there weren’t so many despots from that decade to choose from. Nevertheless, when this song comes on over the piped-in sound system of any given retail establishment, as it’s been all season, it’s a good reality check amid the bloodlusty frenzy of Christmas consumerism. What’s worse: in 2007, uber-privileged, horrible songmaker/prom queen Taylor Swift cut a version of this song that makes Madonna’s b-grade accent sound super-believable and sincere.